Most Popular Web Fonts of 2012

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Looking at the most popular WebINK web fonts for the past 12 months, it has been an interesting year! The last time we ranked our most popular web fonts was in June 2011, when we had fewer than 4000 in the library. Now we have more than 5500 high-quality web fonts. Many favorites remain, but there are some new entries as well. Top trends are neo-grotesque sans serifs (think: alternatives to Arial and Helvetica, at #4 and #6) and geometric sans serifs (at #2 and #3). Traditional serif faces only show up in the bottom two slots at #9 and #10.

Without further ado, the top 10 WebINK typefaces in use for 2012 are:

Top 10 Web Fonts of 2012

Top 10 Web Fonts of 2012

1. Myriad Pro (Adobe)

Myriad Pro was #1 in 2011, and remains the most popular WebINK web font. Myriad was originally released in 1991, a joint design of Adobe’s two then-young master type designers, Robert Slimbach and Carol Twombly, who set out to create a versatile humanist sans serif. Its versatility comes from the huge range of weights and widths available, along with the designers’ goal to make it warm and friendly, yet free of major eccentricities. With the recent web font conversion of the rest of the Myriad Pro family—making all 40 fonts available for even more versatility—one suspects it may remain #1 on WebINK for some time. The design process for Myriad was unusual. Halfway through the design, Slimbach and Twombly swapped which members of the family they were working on so as to avoid having either designer wield too much influence on any part of the typeface. Greek and Cyrillic support were added later by Fred Brady and Christopher Slye, under Slimbach’s direction. The result has been an enduring classic, used as a corporate identity typeface for companies ranging from Apple and Adobe to Wal-Mart. Long popular in print, Myriad’s open counter shapes, combined with Adobe’s carefully managed conversion to the web, have made it a great typeface for web use, even at text sizes.

Myriad Pro type specimen

Myriad Pro type specimen

 

2. Proxima Nova (Mark Simonson Studio)

Mark Simonson’s Proxima Nova (2005) was #5 last year, and has ascended to second place for 2012. The typeface is a redrawing of his earlier Proxima Sans (1994). With dozens of variants in weight, width, and alternate characters (many organized as separate families), this versatile art deco geometric sans serif has become a modern classic. One place you might recognize it from is Tom’s of Maine“green” line of personal hygiene product packaging, including their toothpaste and deodorant.

Proxima Nova type specimen

Proxima Nova type specimen

 

3. Futura PT (ParaType)

Futura is a newcomer to our Top 10, as we had not yet licensed it when we last ran the stats. Futura is an enduring classic, the first geometric sans serif, issued in 1927 by the Bauer type foundry in Germany. The typeface was initially designed by architect Paul Renner, but his drawings lacked certain key adjustments and refinements needed for a workable typeface, so they were heavily adapted by the artisans at Bauer. At the same time some of Renner’s more unusual and odd letterform choices were made into alternates (soon dropped). The resulting innovation tamed by expert craftsmanship remains the world’s most popular geometric sans serif to this day, and an inspiration for scores, perhaps hundreds of typefaces created since.

ParaType added Cyrillic support and reworked the original set of Futura fonts into a more coherent family to work better together, currently with 22 distinct fonts: regular and condensed widths, weights from light to extra bold, and matching italics throughout. The original adaptation and Cyrillic extension was done in 1995 by Vladimir Yefimov, with more styles developed in 2007 by Isabella Chaeva.

Futura PT type specimen

Futura PT type specimen

 

4. Theinhardt (Optimo)

Another typeface too recently added for our Top 10 in the summer of 2011! Theinhardt by François Rappo for Optimo is a refined neo-grotesque sans serif, which we profiled in detail when we added it. You may have seen it on the covers of the New York Times Magazine, or…well, just about everywhere lately. With weights from Hairline to Black, Theinhardt offers an extensive palette for web designers looking for something subtly different.

Theinhardt type specimen

Theinhardt type specimen

 

5. Effra (Dalton Maag)

Up one spot from #6 last year, this Jonas Schudel design for Dalton Maag was released in 2008, with italics added in 2009. Effra is a warm geometric sans with a wide range of weights available. Upon its release it was hailed as one of the “top 5 typefaces of 2009” (along with Adelle, our #7 typeface this year). Like our #2 Proxima Nova, Effra is sometimes suggested as an alternative to Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ Gotham.

Effra type specimen

Effra type specimen

 

6. Aktiv Grotesk (Dalton Maag)

Aktiv Grotesk (2010) is Bruno Maag’s response to the enduring popularity of “grotesque” sans serif typefaces such as Helvetica and Arial. The relatively closed counterforms give grotesque typefaces a more monumental and blocky feeling, particularly in the heavier weights. As the name suggests, Aktiv Grotesk brings just a little more liveliness than usual to this genre, making it a pleasing alternative to its more static forebears. Down from #3 to #6, Aktiv Grotesk remains a popular choice for designers looking for a lively variation on a classic theme.

Aktiv Grotesk type specimen

Aktiv Grotesk type specimen

 

7. Adelle (TypeTogether)

Slab serif typefaces became hot in 2012, and Adelle is one of the leaders of the pack. It is warm yet professional, and expertly executed by TypeTogether partners Veronika Burian and José Scaglione. With seven weights from Thin to Heavy, it offers significant expressive range. Here at Extensis, I was impressed enough with it to use it as the basis for the new Extensis logo, during our own corporate identity makeover early in 2012.

Adelle type specimen

Adelle type specimen

 

8. Omnes (Darden Studio)

Josh Darden’s Omnes (2006) seems to be the standard-bearer in the recent trend of sans serif typefaces with rounded stroke endings. I wrote about this trend and Omnes itself at some length when we first added it. We’ve also written about its usage by Webvanta. Omnes may have fallen from #2 to #8 in the listing, but it remains the most distinctive of the sans serif typefaces in our Top 10.

Omnes type specimen

Omnes type specimen

 

9. Trajan Pro 3 (Adobe)

Steady at #9 on the list is Carol Twombly’s Trajan Pro (1989) for Adobe. Trajan is a remarkably faithful revival of the particular Roman square capitals from the inscription on the base of the Trajan column in Rome (113 CE). It is remarkable how little our capital letters have changed in 1900 years, making these ancient forms completely acceptable lettering today. Trajan has been an incredibly popular typeface for titling, packaging, book covers and especially movie posters. In fact, it has been so crazy popular for movies and movie posters that such usage has been targeted as clichéd. But as long as you’re not doing a movie, it’s still a great choice if you want an epic, stately or classic look: it’s popular because it works. Perhaps at some level every one of us in the western world knows that this is what capital lettering is really “supposed” to look like?

This past March, Adobe released a newly revised version of Trajan Pro, with more weights (both lighter and bolder) and added language support, dubbed Trajan Pro 3. It remains every bit as popular as its forebear, but it is that much more versatile!

Trajan Pro 3 type specimen

Trajan Pro 3 type specimen

 

10. Adobe Garamond Pro (Adobe)

Pushed slightly down at #10, from #8 last time, is Robert Slimbach’s Adobe Garamond Pro. This typeface, first released in 1989, is a revival of Claude Garamond’s upright faces (ca. 1540) and Robert Granjon’s italics (ca. 1590). Adobe Garamond is the most popular of the many 20th-century Garamond revivals, striking a balance between faithfulness to source materials and making a more typeface that meets modern needs. It is widely used for books and body text everywhere, including the text of all the American editions of the Harry Potter books. (For a Garamond revival that hews much more closely to its classical models, see Slimbach’s later re-revival of Garamond for Adobe, Garamond Premier Pro, which is great for larger text and titles.)

Adobe Garamond Pro type specimen

Adobe Garamond Pro type specimen

 

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